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Old November 1 2011, 05:02 AM   #51
Christopher
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Re: Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within (ebook) review thread

Sci wrote: View Post
One quibble: The Talarian situation is just a bandaid in the long run. There can't possibly be such unanimity of opinion amongst Talarian females that formal politics is irrelevant and not what they want to participate in that there wouldn't be a lot of Talarian women wishing to break into the patriarchy's power structure. And the very fact that so many Talarian women felt so oppressed by the government's recent policies means, at the end of the day, that they can't just trust the government not to infringe upon their rights and desires without eventually seeking a voice.
Well, there's a lot of historical and sociological precedent for the kind of gender division I was portraying here. If you look at some of the horticultural societies of the Amazon, for instance, the women generally are the ones who do most of the important stuff in society and all the men's rhetoric and posturing about being in power has little real impact. We think of politics as the way to get things done because we've been conditioned for many generations to assume that the traditionally male, public sphere is the only legitimate one and to devalue the parallel social roles that women played, roles that often gave them a great deal of real power that the male establishment simply chose not to acknowledge as power. Such as control of marital choice (which could have a major political impact, since so much could ride on marriage alliances between powerful families), control of finances within the family, control of what their children got taught or trained to do, etc. A lot of women in history have wielded great "informal" power, changing the course of mighty empires by choosing which son to groom as a ruler or which marital alliances to make.

So calling it "formal politics" is itself a male-centric definition, unquestioningly accepting the assumption that the male sphere is the only one that exists or matters. Our society has moved toward equality by extending that traditionally male sphere to include women as well, but there are other ways of structuring a society, as history shows. Women have often had a lot of real power through social institutions that existed in parallel with so-called "formal" government and politics. It's just generally been ignored or downplayed because men wrote the history books and imposed their biases. But what if a society openly recognized both those parallel spheres as equally "formal" in their own way? Sort of a separation-of-powers thing like having different branches of government. That's the kind of alien society I wanted to explore.

The whole point I was going for here was that the women do have a voice, and always have; the problem was simply that Ronzel's government, and the male culture he belonged to, had fallen into the same kind of self-aggrandizing assumptions that human men historically have, falsely perceiving their own role in society as being more important or powerful than the females' parallel role, and thus creating an imbalance. I wanted it to initially look like a battle of the sexes in human terms in order to disguise the real situation, and then reveal how things were different because this was an alien culture. Not so different from how many historical human cultures have done things, but certainly different from modern Western assumptions and expectations.
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